Charles Leclerc did not feel it was inevitable Lewis Hamilton would overtake him late in the British Grand Prix, and believed he could take a sensational win right up until the final pass for the lead.
The first lap collision between Max Verstappen and Hamilton had left Leclerc in the lead when the race was red-flagged for more than half an hour, with the Ferrari expected to drop back after the delay. Instead, Leclerc comfortably held on in the first stint and looked to be in a strong position for victory while Hamilton took his 10-second time penalty. Despite Hamilton’s charge back up through the field, Leclerc hoped he could hold off the defending champion’s pursuit of the top spot with three laps to go.
“When Lewis passed me! Until then I still believed I could win this race, and it’s the way it should be,” Leclerc said of when the race got away. “If I was thinking of being second before that, I think it will have gone even worse. I believed in it until the very last moment. Obviously I had my engineer telling me Lewis’ pace on the hard tires, and I was like, ‘That’s quick’. I was pushing 200 percent, but obviously it wasn’t good enough to keep that first position in the last laps.
“It’s 50 percent frustration, 50 percent happiness. Obviously, going into this weekend there was absolutely no hope of fighting for a win here in Silverstone. So, this shows how great a job we are doing as a team. It’s not an easy situation for the team but the team is working extremely well. We are working extremely well as a team and we have shown that with this second place.
“Now, we need to keep on working because that’s what we want to do consistently: fight for the win. So it’s great to be fighting with Lewis but we shouldn’t expect to be in that position for the rest of the year – and for that we need to keep working.”
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Leclerc had the ideal view of the controversial collision between Hamilton and Verstappen as the following car, and he deemed the clash a racing incident based on how the pair were fighting each other.
“It is very difficult to judge it from the car; we are very low so it’s difficult to see. Everything went very quick. Obviously, I could see there was quite a bit of things going on in front of me. And yeah, I think it’s a racing incident. It’s quite difficult to put the blame on one or the other.
“Obviously, there was space on the inside. Maybe Lewis was not completely at the apex but it’s also true that Max was quite aggressive on the outside. So, things happen. What is the most important is that Max is unharmed and is fine.”